3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Going Overseas

My friends at Athletes Abroad are featuring a column on things pro athletes wished they knew before going overseas for the season. As a contributor, I thought I’d share my piece and encourage you to check out the site for a more in depth look into life as a pro athlete in a foreign country.

The pro-athlete hiring process doesn’t quite follow what I’d consider standard procedure. And I shouldn’t expect it to, it’s not your everyday, run-of-the-mill career. There is no LinkedIn, no email forwarding of resume.pdf, or submission of a cover letter on watermarked, 25% cotton fiber paper. In most cases, the job posting and description is concisely summed up in a phone call from your agent as, “So and so team in such and such country is looking for a forward. They’re interested.” Ok, that may or may not be a gross oversimplification, but the point is there is often a healthy dose of asymmetric information at work. No 3hr Google research plunge will prepare you for everything to expect upon arrival in your 8 month home across the ocean. And sometimes, as I learned in my own maiden voyage, there’s not even time for that. Here are three things I wish I knew before heading overseas.

Food

Ok, I know it sounds silly. Food should be one of the main things I expected to be different right? Right. Absolutely. And even though I am not a big fan of American fast food, am fond of trying new foreign recipes  and love cooking my own meals, I still underestimated how much I’d miss some tastes and flavors from home. Craving attacks are real, people. Overseas, it’s important to get to know your grocery store top to bottom and when all else fails, have a go-to restaurant for emergencies. And if I could do it over again, I would’ve had a painstakingly architected “Last-Week-At-Home Menu” before scanning my passport and boarding that international flight.

Camera

Playing overseas is a rare (and coveted) opportunity to travel and experience some pretty amazing places around the world. I wish I would’ve known the value of a good camera before leaving. I’ve always had a passion for the visual arts and adventure. This year being my first trip abroad, I naively figured I wouldn’t be taking enough pictures to warrant a new camera purchase. I thought I was just fine with an old Canon point-and-shoot that was a conference tournament gift and my trusty iPhone 5. Let me tell you that iPhones die and the 8 megapixels on the Canon was left back in the dust of Moore’s Law some years ago. While it won’t stop me from snapping memories here in Tel Aviv, one of my first offseason gifts to myself will be a nice camera.

Online Shopping/Customs

I’m 6’9” and finding shoes (shirts, jeans, socks, suits, and any other article of clothing) that fit is generally a laughable and depressing experience. Anticipating the challenges to come, I packed a generous number of basketball shoes, expecting them to last all season. Little did I know that the team I’d play for despises its rival so much, their team color shall not be spoken. Guess which color was on a few pairs of my brand new shoes? That said, I wish I would’ve known how complicated/expensive e-commerce is in my particular country (or the extent to which my team hates the color yellow). With my size never in store, I’m left to online shopping. I’ve found that while they have the website access, many countries don’t have the order/shopping capabilities for popular stores/brands. This means ordering from the US version of the site, having the shoes delivered to a family member in the states, and then shipping them abroad. Neither the cheapest nor most time efficient process. Did I mention it’s been one two and a half and my teammate is still waiting for a package to arrive?

There’s no way to have it all figured out before heading overseas. The idea is to enjoy the adventure, learn along the way, and be prepared to pack it all up and take on the next voyage.

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